Preparing for your Autistic Child’s First Dentist Visit

Preparing for your autistic child's first dentist visit can seem overwhelming but it doesn't have to be. Learn how to get ready here

autistic child’s first dentist visit

An estimated 33% of children experience some level of dental anxiety. Dentist’s offices are full of bright lights, loud noises, and potentially painful instruments, so it’s no wonder one-third of children are afraid. This fear can be compounded in autistic children.

Preparing for your Autistic Child’s First Dentist Visit

If you need help preparing for your autistic child’s first dentist visit, keep reading.

1. Talk to the Dentist and Dental Assistants Ahead of Time

Make sure you book your first dentist visit with a pediatric dentist that is comfortable with and can accommodate them. Here are some things to discuss ahead of time:

  • Your child’s needs and potential triggers
  • Accommodations you would like to set up
  • What objects you can bring to their appointment to help them self soothe.

Inquire about the least busy time of day and how flexible the scheduling is. You may want to make sure the dentist who works on your child will be available for future appointments as well to maintain consistency.

Preparing for your autistic child's first dentist visit can seem overwhelming but it doesn't have to be. Learn how to get ready here

2. Schedule a Tour of the Dentist’s Office

Some dental offices, especially those who specialize in helping patients on the spectrum, allow parents to schedule tours of their offices to help their children feel more comfortable with the setting when it comes time for their appointment.

Many tools and devices are loud and could provoke sensory overload. Getting an idea of what your child thinks is the most overwhelming part is an excellent way to prepare for their appointment.

3. Talk to Your Child

If you cannot schedule a tour of the dentist’s office, do your best to explain the situation to your child. If they are a visual learner, use pictures or videos to help them understand the experience. Also, try to find photos of the office you will bring them to, use these.
 
You can find visual and textual guides online to help you describe the process of what they might go through. Here is a detailed and informative root canal guide.

4. Help Them Prepare for the appointment

Since your child has never been to the dentist before, they’ll be experiencing many new things at once. To prepare them, consider buying some of the tools used during a basic dental cleaning, like mirrors, scalers, or explorers, and let them interact with them.
 
 Have your child lay back in a reclining chair and assume the same position they will need to be in during the appointment. Describe what the dentist will do and maybe use some props like a toothbrush or mouthwash.

5. Bring Self Soothing Items

If your child has specific sensory issues, consider bringing items for them to self soothe or stim during the appointment. Make sure it is okay to bring and that it will not interfere with the process at all. Things like a weighted lap blanket, stuffed animal, sunglasses, earplugs, small toys, or other objects should be acceptable.

Preparing for Your Child’s First Dentist Visit Simplified

Getting ready for your autistic child’s first dentist visit can be a long and involved process. It’s helpful to discuss your concerns with the office staff ahead of time and possibly set up a tour. Talk to your child and explain the process to become familiar with what will happen during the visit.
 
If you found these autism parenting tips helpful, check out the rest of our site for more informative content.

By The Mom Kind

Alicia Trautwein is an Autism advocate, writer, motivational speaker, and dedicated mom of four. Alicia’s desire to advocate for Autism comes from her own autism diagnosis and that of her three children, niece, and brother. Her life’s mission is to educate on autism acceptance and change the world for future generations of autistic individuals.

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